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Local homeless to get chance in Atlanta
A loader scrapes up trash and other debris Oct. 25 underneath the Queen City Bridge. Crews from the Georgia Department of Transportation and an state inmate crew cleared the encampment of items left behind.

Five homeless men from Hall County will be selected to join a workforce training and transitional housing program in Atlanta “in an act of community partnership.”

Gainesville resident Doug Hanson has spearheaded the effort to connect Georgia Works! with the Northeast Georgia region.

“In conjunction with the closing of the Queen City Bridge homeless camp, a request was made to Georgia Works! for possible enrollments in Atlanta,” Hanson said.

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, said she is coordinating with local agencies and shelters to identify strong candidates for the privately funded program and prepare them for admission.

This includes reaching out to mental health clinics such as Laurelwood and Avita Community Partners, and missions like Good News at Noon and The Salvation Army, for recommendations on who is ready for this big step forward.

Hanson said he expects candidates will have completed an initial detoxification plan, if necessary, before entry later this month or next.

Pastor Jerry Deyton, who operates The Way ministry and day shelter in Gainesville, said persuading candidates to relocate to Atlanta for the program could be a challenge in the coming weeks.

But advocates agree the timing is right to head down this path.

“If we waited until we get something started here, it could take a year to 18 months,” Hanson said.

In that time, Hanson intends to track the progress of those selected for Georgia Works! to learn about how the program runs from day to day.

Hanson said he believes the program can be replicated in Gainesville, Hall County and beyond.

There are an estimated 200 or more homeless individuals in and around Gainesville at any given time, according to local officials and nonprofit agencies.

And Hall is just one of 10 counties in the state to experience a more than 50 percent increase in the number of unsheltered homeless people between 2013 and 2015, according to the state Department of Community Affairs.

The Georgia Works! program has graduated nearly 200 men by addressing any substance abuse problems, criminal history, mental health or other issues they may have.

The men are given work cleaning streets at minimum wage, and they eventually move up to temporary employment with sponsoring businesses and the potential for a career.

The North Georgia Community Foundation is supporting efforts to support these men and establish a local program by accepting tax-deductible contributions from businesses and individuals to “sponsor” candidates, Hanson said.

One local business has already stepped up to deliver a “full-faith commitment to the transformation of our men,” he added.